A tree for a tree

This week I read that you can tell how long it’s been since a field has been reclaimed by forest. If the forest has a lot of pines, maybe twenty years. If there are more hardwoods than pines, maybe forty years.

We own a tiny of patch woods behind our house. Beyond that is a field (not ours). Once upon a time, this was all field, and long before that, all forest.

I cannot recall what these trees looked like when our house was new, twenty years ago. I can see we have quite a few hardwoods now in our tiny bit of forest.

This week one of our pines toppled in a wind gust preceding a thunderstorm. The trunk’s resting partly on the fence (which is holding up, surprisingly). On the other side, the treetop is a shattered, mangled mess. My plant identifier app tells me it’s a loblolly pine with Crown Gall caused by bacterial infection. It must have been slowly starving for water or nutrients. The extent of its brokenness there on the grass makes me wonder how much the tree suffered and if others of its species tried to help or not (trees do this for one another).

At any rate, it’s gone. A fat sand-colored dove lands on the fence to survey the damage also. Maybe it is simply paying respects.

There is nothing I can do. The fallen tree will have to be cleaned up. I imagine the confusion of rabbits, the next time they come out to nibble clover and find this mess. I turn to go back to the house, whereupon I discover a curiously bright and fresh plant quite to itself where the pinestraw ends and grass begins.

Sweetgum. A baby hardwood. Encroaching toward the middle of the yard.

I look at back at the grown sweetgums waving their starry leaves from among the cedars and pines. I imagine the mother tossing her seeds as far she could (not very far, only a few feet; maybe birds or animals helped but the wind apparently didn’t, not much).

Still. Cannot help thinking about that reading I’ve just been doing…as in, this cheery neon-green baby being a strategic move in the decades-long hardwood takeover and that sick pine, an occupational casualty.

I wonder what the trees tell one another, what old secrets live deep in the understory.

I wonder what the dove knows, and the wind, as it blows.

Something of belonging and primeval balance, surely.

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